Robert “Bob” Manekin, 74, is a well-known and well-respected leader in Baltimore’s Jewish community, having received many accolades over the course of his career recognizing his contributions.
He has served as the chair of the JCC of Greater Baltimore’s board, president of Jewish Addiction Services, a member of both The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore’s board of trustees and Associated Jewish Charities’ board of directors and many other positions in Jewish community organizations.
On March 6, the JCC of Greater Baltimore will recognize Manekin for his lifetime of work at an upcoming J Live event, celebrating his 45 years of professional involvement. He will be receiving the JCC Belazel Leadership Award, named for the biblical figure who constructed the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant.
But Manekin, who lives with his wife in Pikesville and belongs to Chizuk Amuno Congregation, comes from fairly humble beginnings. He grew up mainly attending synagogues for holidays and occasional Shabbat services, but got more involved in the Jewish community through his father, a former chairman of the board at the JCC of Greater Baltimore. His family actually boasts the first membership to the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC when it opened in 1961. Manekin said his father was always very active in the community, as well as his uncle. He would follow in their footsteps later in life.
“From a communal volunteer perspective, I first got involved with The Associated in 1980 as a member of the Young Men’s Leadership Council. After serving as chair in 1982, I was given the opportunity to pick an agency board to join. I picked the JCC,” Manekin said. “It was — and is — the one agency that brought Jews together from the Orthodox to the unaffiliated.”
Before that, though, Manekin graduated from City College after spending four years enrolled in naval ROTC. He was later called into active duty service after graduating from law school in 1974, serving at Pearl Harbor for three years.
Manekin may be most well known for his work in the real estate industry, which he has worked in for over 50 years. Currently, he is a managing director and director of mid-Atlantic training at the global real estate company JLL. Manekin’s experience in real estate often intertwines with his work for Jewish organizations like the JCC of Greater Baltimore and The Associated, as he currently co-chairs the latter’s real estate committee and heads the task force for redeveloping its Park Heights campus.
“In commercial real estate development, leasing and property management, you have to work with a lot of people from different backgrounds. Being able to work with them, help them and leverage them to achieve a common goal is ultimately what leadership is about,” Manekin said of how his real estate experience has helped him in communal leadership roles.
Manekin works for The Associated’s real estate committee in tandem with co-chair Mark Renbaum, and he noted that the two of them “have evolved, in The Associated community, into a little like famous pairs such as Rocky and Bullwinkle, Rodgers and Hammerstein and the Lone Ranger and Tonto.”
“It is our job to maximize the value of The Associated’s real estate portfolio, which includes buildings and land,” Manekin added.
The JCC Belazel Leadership Award is far from the first award Manekin has received. He was honored with the Harry Greenstein Young Leadership Award in 1981, and he recently earned the Carole Sibel Outstanding Fundraising Achievement Award in 2023 for his commitment to The Associated.
Manekin said that receiving these awards is always a massive honor to him.
“I am a real estate guy from a real estate family,” he said. “Being recognized and thanked for four decades of volunteer work is really special. And making it most special is that it is the JCC, of which I have been a member for nearly 70 years, who is presenting this award.”
For those who want to become more involved in community leadership, Manekin has two key pieces of advice: get involved in any way you can, and do what you are asked to do as well as you can.
“Before chairing the JCC board, I was on the property management committee, ran the auction, served on membership and a host of other things. So people should get involved in areas they are passionate about, do the grunt work and leadership will follow,” he said. “Besides, one of the things I learned during my Navy training is ‘you can’t lead if you do not know how to follow.’”